ANGELES CITY – The stakeholders of Chevalier School (CS) finally agreed to allow the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) fathers to sign a new lease contract with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Fernando (RCASF) for the continued operation of the school in Barangay Sto. Domingo here for another four to five years.
It can be recalled that the CS stakeholders composed of the alumni association, employees, teachers, students and their parents filed a temporary restraining order and a prayer for permanent injunction before the Regional Trial Court Branch 58 to prevent the MSC from signing a new contract with the RCASF for the continued operation of CS.
The MSC had announced the closure of CS on June 30, 2021 due to the decision of the MSC to leave the archdiocese because of the outcome of the Roman Rota decision which nullified the lease contract signed on Oct. 31, 1958 between the RCASF (lessor) and the Sacred Heart Mission Seminary, Inc. (lessee).
But during the conclusion of the sangguniang panlungsod committee on education hearing chaired by Councilor Joseph Alfie Bonifacio at the Legislative Building here on Monday, the CS stakeholders agreed that they will sign a memorandum of undertaking to allow the MSC to sign another contract with the RCASF for the operation of CS for another five years.
Archbishop Florentino Lavarias was not present during the committee hearing but gave a statement via FB Messenger when contacted by Bonifacio.
Initially, Lavarias also sent a letter to Bonifacio dated February 18, explaining the side of the RCASF on the educational stability of CS.
Lavarias stated some “important and relevant facts” about the issue on CS to serve as guide for the hearing:
1. The MSC Fathers cannot continue to operate CS in the present venue because there is a Roman Rota Decision nullifying the contract of lease between the Sacred Heart Mission Seminary, Inc. and the RCASF. Both the present MSC Fathers running Chevalier School, Inc. and the RCASF voluntarily submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the Roman Rota hence, they made themselves legally bound by the Roman Rota Decision nullifying the contract of lease.
2. The RCASF already agreed with the MSC Fathers to sign a new 10-year lease contract from January 1, 2016 to December 21, 2025 but the Alumni Association, Employees, Students and PTA filed a case before the RTC Branch 58 of Angeles City to stop the MSC Fathers from signing a new lease contract. The Court issued a TRO on February 27, 2017. Then on December 26, 2019 the RTC issued a decision (which has now become final and executory) permanently prohibiting the MSC Fathers from signing said contract with the RCASF. Therefore, the MSC Fathers are legally prohibited by civil law up to 2033 from signing a lease contract with the RCASF on account of the case filed by the Alumni Association, Employees, Students and the PTA.
3. As a consequence, against the permanent prohibition of the MSC Fathers, the Archbishop and the MSC Fathers mutually agreed on Nov. 14, 2020 on the departure of the MSC Fathers from the Archdiocese by June 30, 2021. As contained in the official statement of the MSC Provincial, Fr. Leonardo Cabrera, dated Nov. 28, 2020, the MSC Fathers decided to close Chevalier School by June 30, 2021.
4. As an additional information, since Jan. 7, 2021, the Archdiocese and the Provincial of the MSC Fathers have been collaboratively planning in formulating and executing the exit plan of the MSC Fathers. In fact, on Feb. 17, 2021, the present rector of Chevalier School, Fr. Sabino T. Roquero, Jr, representing the provincial already presented and discussed to the Archbishop the initial plans for the exit of the MSC Fathers.
Lavarias said on FB Messenger which was amplified via a microphone that the MSC Fathers have no existing contract with the RCASF. A new contract cannot be signed by the MSC Fathers because of the permanent injunction issued by the Court.
Lavarias also said that when he assumed as Archbishop, there was already a decision. “So, during negotiations, the RCASF gave the MSC five years for the transition but they asked for 15 so we met in the middle and granted them 10 years,” Lavarias said.
“And we started crafting a new contract and it took us almost a year,” the Archbishop said. “And we were about to sign …yun po lumabas na sila ay dinemanda na hindi muna sila pwedi mag sign. And we waited…,” he said. “And then lumabas yung decision ng Court it was final and executory.”
Bonifacio then asked the CS stakeholders through their lawyer, Atty. Regina Gopez-Agustin, if the new contract will be signed, will the MSC Fathers not be held liable in contempt of court? “Can we do that?” he asked.
Gopez said “the stakeholders already executed an affidavit of undertaking that if ever they will enter into a new contract, they will not be held in contempt of court. They will not fight any case in court or a motion before the RTC to hold them in contempt.”
She explained that “it doesn’t matter if the TRO is final and executory because if there is no movement coming from the petitioners, then it cannot be executed moto propio by the court.”
Councilor Jesus “Jay” Sangil was optimistic.
“We have to come up with a win-win solution. The entire council is very supportive of this cause. At the end of the day, this will be resolved,” he said.
Sangil noted that after the signing of a memorandum of undertaking by the CS stakeholders, there will be “no more tug-of-war.”
Fr. Sabino Roquero, CS Rector, said the MSC will abide with whatever the decision of the bishop. “I will be very happy for the sake of the stakeholders especially at this time of the pandemic,” he said.
Victor Tanglao, president of the Sacred Heart Seminary-Chevalier School Alumni Association, said: “What transpired was very fruitful. We will be making an affidavit of undertaking” and “remain prayerful and hopeful that what will happen on Monday will be very positive meaning the RCASF will give new life, extension for the existence of our beloved Chevalier School.”
At the sidelines after the committee hearing, Bonifacio said “the outcome was very positive” when asked about his reaction.
“…With the support of the city council, the RCASF under the leadership of Archbishop Lavarias is willing to give another four to five years extension for the existence of Chevalier,” he said.
In the meantime, Bonifacio set the next hearing on Monday which will be the signing of the memorandum of undertaking by the CS stakeholders.